When Keith and I moved to the country, flies became an ordeal. Even with air conditioning, they manage to zoom in between door openings and closings, especially when, as was the case for several years, not twenty feet outside our back door lay a well-populated cow pasture.
What I was not ready for were yellow flies. I had never dealt with a fly that bites. The first time one landed for a snack, it left me with a hard, sore knot the size of a ping pong ball. Keith tells me this is not the usual case, that I must be hypersensitive, but whatever is going on here I do my best to stay away from yellow flies.
When I jogged, I always passed one place on the road where one particular yellow fly made it his business to give me grief. He buzzed my head like a crop duster, and I am sure my pace increased to near world record speeds on that hundred foot stretch of highway every day. I am also certain I looked pretty funny swinging and swatting away with both hands, but it was the only way to keep myself free of those painful welts.
I thought of that fly chasing me down the road when I read this verse: But as for you, O man of God…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and godliness, 1 Tim 6:11.
Most of the time we focus on the things we are supposed to be pursuing in that passage, but did you ever wonder exactly how you should be pursuing them? Like a yellow fly, as it turns out.
And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" And he said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Acts 9:4-5
I did a little research into that word “pursue” and those are the verses that popped up. “Pursue” is translated more than any other English word, more in fact, than all of the choices put together, as “persecute,” just as it is in Acts 9. We are supposed to “persecute” all righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, and meekness. What?!
Just think for a minute about how Saul went about persecuting Christians. He went from city to city. He made appointments with the authorities to get what we might think of as warrants in order to put them in prison. Then he testified against them to make his case. Many times this persecution was “to the death.” Once he finished in one place, he moved to the next, and to the next, and to the next. Persecuting Christians was his life.
How much of our lives do we spend trying to become more righteous, more godly, more loving, and all those other things that Paul says we should pursue? How much time, how much effort, how much sacrifice do we give to it? Or do we instead offer excuses for poor behavior we should have mastered years ago, for sins we refuse to overcome? If we were pursuing righteousness the way Paul pursued—persecuted--Christians, if we spent our lives doing whatever was necessary to learn to love as we ought, if we “buffeted our bodies” to become more godly, if we spent the same amount of time bolstering our faith that we do soothing our egos or building our bank accounts, maybe those things wouldn’t be so difficult to chase down.
When I think about being pursued by that pesky, persecuting yellow fly, I instantly understand what I should be doing to become a better disciple of my Lord. Come out and visit some day and I’ll see if we can’t arrange the same experience for you!
Follow after (pursue, persecute) peace with all men and holiness, without which no one shall see the Lord, Heb 12:14.